Thursday, February 14, 2013

Online Business Email Etiquette and Anonymity

I've often wondered why some online businesses, when the management or employees respond to customer service or pre-sales related emails, have the habit of:

a) not addressing the client by name

b) using a signature without their own name; even just a first name.

Call most (good) companies, and the person answering the phone will give you their name without prompting. Go into most supermarkets or chain stores and whoever is serving you will be wearing a name tag.

Aside from being polite, when staff members identify themselves, it can assist in closing a sale or expediting complaint resolution. Wearing a name tag or giving your name also helps to humanize the shopping experience for the customer.

In the online world, in my opinion, using the 'Team X' or 'Customer Support' type signature without a human name suggests the merchant has something to hide or they really don't give a hoot about me; that I'm so unimportant to their business that I don't even deserve the courtesy of knowing the name of the person who I'm dealing with. Even if they don't care, I'd prefer to at least see an attempt to make an impression that they do.

This sort of anonymity is ridiculous - if a merchant is so concerned about their privacy, then they should probably look at doing something else for a living. In a transaction that requires pre-sales communication, I want to know who I'm conversing with, I also like to be addressed by my name when I receive a response and I'm sure many other online shoppers feel the same.

It seems our high-tech world is quickly forgetting the basic etiquette that had previously served us so well for so long. It's not something that we needed to lose, and we're socially poorer for it.

I do understand that for staff in some foreign companies, they may not use their names, as they may be difficult for Westerners to decipher; or they may fear we may be prejudiced in dealing with certain ethnic groups. In a foreign exchange school where my partner worked, the Chinese students would "adopt" western names. They made some curious choices, but the point is that it made life a little easier for them as Australians really couldn't get pronounce their real names.

If you're concerned about a xenophobic reaction when dealing with Western clients via email, use a pseudonym - it's very simple; just be sure to remember the one you've chosen.

Remember also that the client has a name too; use it - it's just all a part of common courtesy. That common courtesy can translate into better online sales. Good manners take very little time and cost nothing, but there's many rewards to reap.

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